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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

2018 Indian Parliament Monsoon Session - Congress Moves Privilege Motion Against PM Modi, Nirmala Sitharaman for 'Lying' on Rafale Deal Tuesday July 24,2018

The Congress on Tuesday July 24,2018 moved a privilege motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman for “lying” about the secrecy clause in a 2008 Indo-French pact during the no-trust vote in Parliament on July 20,2018

In his plea to the Speaker, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said Sitharaman's assertions "on the floor of this House were absolutely false" and she had misled not just the members of the House but "the entire nation".

Referring to Modi, he said the Prime Minister's claim on transparency in the Rafale agreement is "factually incorrect, untrue and deliberately made with the intention to mislead the House".

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday engaged in a war of words over the price details of the Rafale fighter jet deal, with both parties accusing each other of misleading Parliament.

Days after Congress president Rahul Gandhi assailed the government in Parliament over the Rafale deal, the party fielded three of its top leaders — former defence minister AK Antony, Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala — who demanded the Modi dispensation must reveal the price details of the aircraft.

The leaders also released a copy of the confidential agreement the UPA government had signed with France in January 2008 to drive home the point that it does not restrict India to reveal the price details of the Rafale deal.

The BJP, on the other hand, fielded law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to dismiss the questions raised by the Congress. He called the allegations a “collective singing of falsehood” to defend Gandhi, who, he said, was “prima facie guilty of breach of privilege for misleading” the Lok Sabha.

Ravi Shankar Prasad also cited replies made in Parliament by then UPA government on defence purchases and other issues in which its defence minister, first Pranab Mukherjee and then AK Antony, had declined to share price details and other information on the ground of national security.

In his address during the debate on the no-confidence motion against the government on Friday, Gandhi had said that French President Emmanuel Macron had told him during a meeting here earlier this year that there was no secrecy pact that restricts India from revealing price details of Rafale aircraft.

The Congress has been demanding that the government share details of the Rafale fighter aircraft price as it accused the Modi government of buying them at a much higher price than it was originally negotiated.

Ravi Shankar Prasad said the base price of each aircraft negotiated by the government with France is at 91.75 million Euro, nine per cent less than the 100.85 million Euro the UPA government had decided upon.

The government has been forthcoming in declaring the aircraft's price but details of the operationally sensitive matter, including India specific enhancement and logistics support package, would end up disclosing the vital information about the Indian Air Force's strength, the minister said.

Following Gandhi’s claim in the Lok Sabha that the French president had told him that there is no secrecy pact on the Rafale deal pricing with India, the French Embassy had said in a statement that a security agreement it concluded with India in 2008 legally binds the two countries to protect the classified information relating to operational capabilities of defence equipment.

What is a privilege motion? Who can move it? How?

Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”. When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament. A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege. Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

What are the rules governing privilege?

Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook governs privilege. It says that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof. The rules however mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House. Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.

What is the role of the Speaker/Rajya Sabha Chair?

The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion. The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament. If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement

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